Women’s History Month: Medical Pioneer Antonia Novello

Appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Dr. Antonia Novello became the first woman and the first Hispanic woman to become Surgeon General of the United States.

Antonia C. Novello, Surgeon General of the United States

Born in Puerto Rico in 1944, Dr. Novello excelled academically at a young age, graduating from high school at the age of 15. From there she attended the University of Puerto Rico where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree. She was admitted to the University of Puerto School of Medicine and graduated in 1970 with a Doctor of Medicine degree.  For the next six years, she trained as a resident at the University of Michigan and Georgetown University Hospital.

After residency, Dr. Novello opened her own pediatric practice in Springfield, Virginia, but closed the practice in 1979 and joined the Public Health Service as a member of the Commissioned Corps. As a member of the Commissioned Corps, she worked a variety of high-profile assignments throughout the country, steadily rising through the ranks over the following 11 years.

In 1990, she was appointed Surgeon General of the United States by President Bush. She served in this role under both Presidents Bush and Clinton until June 1993.

Contributed by Adrian Clark, Diversity and Inclusion Officer

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